History Podcasts

How many German soldiers were there by the time Nazi Germany surrendered?

How many German soldiers were there by the time Nazi Germany surrendered?


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

How many German soldiers were out there fighting by the time Nazi Germany surrendered ? (What I mean by surrendered is 8th of may 1945)

I read this and it says in early may there were around 800K axis soldiers still in Pragua and it had me thinking, why weren't they in Berlin ?

And how many more were out there and surrendered after Hitler committed suicide ?

I am asking only about soldiers, not considering young boys and old people sent out as soldiers. But those who actually armed and capable of fighting.


World War II Fact: Some Nazi Military Units Kept Fighting Even After Germany Surrendered

Some could not quite believe it was all over. They had longed for an end to the war in Europe for years. “Then suddenly it was upon them all and the impact of the fact was a thing that failed to register–like the death of a loved one,” the historian of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division wrote that year.

At midnight on September 3, 1945, six years to the day after Britain had gone to war with Germany, Dr. Dege had the dubious honor of being the commander of the last German unit to surrender to the Allies. It was four months after the defeat of Hitler’s Reich. It was said that one of his first questions after the surrender was, “Is the Führer really dead?”

It was said on May 8, 1945, that some of the victors wandered around in a daze. They were puzzled by a strange silence. The guns were no longer firing the permanent barrage, their constant companion, during those last months since they had crossed the Rhine.

Some could not quite believe it was all over. They had longed for an end to the war in Europe for years. “Then suddenly it was upon them all and the impact of the fact was a thing that failed to register–like the death of a loved one,” the historian of the U.S. 3rd Infantry Division wrote that year.

On that day in May, a combat engineer sergeant serving with General George S. Patton, Jr.’s Third Army in Austria wrote to his wife, “The war’s over! All we can think about is, thank God, thank God … nobody is going to shoot at me any more. I can’t be killed. I have made it!” Medal of Honor Recipient Audie Murphy, recuperating from his three wounds in Cannes, went out into the crowds celebrating the great victory. “I feel only a vague irritation,” he wrote later. “I want company and I want to be alone. I want to talk and I want to be silent. There is VE Day without, but no peace.”

Pockets of German Resistance Remained

Most of the GIs were not given, however, to philosophizing. They simply got blind drunk instead. It was Tuesday May 8, 1945—Victory in Europe Day. It was all over. The Germans were beaten at last. There was peace again. Were the Germans really beaten? Was there really peace in Europe?

Over the past few weeks, the great Allied armies had swept through Hitler’s vaunted “1,000 Year-Reich,” which had lasted 12 years and five months, occupying everything from great, if shattered, cities to remote intact villages and hamlets. But in their urgent drive to kill the Nazi beast, they had left great swaths of territory in German hands. There were German outposts everywhere over hundreds of miles in Germany itself and in the former German-occupied countries, which seemed to come under no one’s control save that of the local commanders.

In the area of Dessau, where the U.S. and Soviet Armies had failed to link up, the entire German infrastructure still functioned. For nearly two months, the locals ran their own post offices, telephone exchanges, and so on, guarded by a sizeable force of German soldiers, with the Allies totally unaware of the situation. Farther north in the area of the German border, SS troops still held out in the forests around Bad Segeberg. Well dug in, they refused to surrender until the commander of the British 11th Armored Division grew sick of the situation. He was not going to risk any more deaths in his division, which had suffered casualties enough since Normandy. Instead, he ordered the commander of the German 8th Parachute Division to do the job for him. Thus, during the week after the war was officially over, German fought German to the death.

The “Night of the Long Knives” and the Battle of Texel

These were not the only ones. On the Dutch island of Texel, across from the important German naval base of Den Heldern, a full-scale mini war had been under way since the end of April 1945. At that time, the 82nd Infantry Battalion, made up of Russian former prisoners of war from Soviet Georgia under some 400 German officers and noncommissioned officers, had been preparing to fight the Canadians who were advancing into Holland. The ex-POWs believed resistance would mean their death in combat or forced repatriation to Russia where again they might well be put to death as traitors.

Instead of fighting for the Germans, they had mutinied under a broad-shouldered former pilot, Lieutenant Sjalwas Loladze. He argued that if they could take their German superiors by surprise and equip themselves with whatever artillery they could find on the island, they would be able to hold out until Canadian paratroopers dropped on Texel and relieved them.

Thus it was that they carried out their own “night of the long knives” in late April. In one night they slaughtered their German officers and NCOs in their beds, some 250 of them, and took the rest of them prisoner. The battalion commander, a Major Breitner, could not be found in his quarters. That was not surprising. He was in bed with his mistress, a local Dutch girl. Hearing the midnight bursts of firing, Breitner thought the Canadians had landed, but he soon discovered that German weapons were being fired and that his troops had mutinied. At gunpoint, he forced a local fisherman to row him over to Den Heldern and alarmed the authorities there.

The next day, the Battle of Texel commenced. The Germans advanced three battalions, some 3,500 men in all, and they soon forced the Georgians to retreat. Still, the former prisoners refused to surrender. Down to 400 men by May, they continued the bitter struggle in which no quarter was given or expected. When a Georgian was taken prisoner by the Germans, he was stripped of his uniform and shot on the spot. The ex-POWs had an even simpler method. They tied bundles of their prisoners together and attached a single grenade to them. It was bloody, but efficient, they thought. Besides, it saved their dwindling supply of ammunition.

While the Canadians, who now occupied that part of Holland, looked on impotently (or so they said later), the men of the Georgian Battalion and their onetime German masters slaughtered each other ruthlessly. VE Day came and went, and they were still at it.

Farmbacher Holds Out in Lorient

On May 8, another cut off German garrison—that of the great German U-boat base at Lorient on the French coast—was still holding out, ignoring both the Allied order to surrender and that of the last Nazi leader, Admiral Karl Dönitz, to lay down their arms. Back in August 1944, Patton had intended to capture the key naval base, but after his army had suffered great losses at Brest and other Breton ports, he had called off the attack.

Lorient was going to be allowed to wither on the vine. Unfortunately for the Allies, Lorient did not wither. For over a year, its commander, elderly General Wilhelm Fahrmbacher, had fought off attacks by the French and American troops who had surrounded the Lorient after Patton had departed with his Third Army. After winning the Knight’s Cross in Russia, Farmbacher had been put out to pasture at Lorient.

During what amounted to a siege, he had been supplied by U-boat and long-range aircraft, supplementing the garrison’s rations with raids on the French and Americans and penetrating their lines in depth to buy food from the local farmers, who were prepared to deal with the enemy—at a price.

Throughout those long months, Farmbacher had succeeded in maintaining the garrison’s morale with a daily supply of that German staple—bread. Unknown to the troops, however, most of that freshly baked Komissbrot was made from sawdust. Fahrmbacher and his chief quartermaster, who kept the matter strictly secret, had had the local rail track pulled up to get at the wooden sleepers below. Daily and in secrecy, these sleepers were sawed up to make sawdust.

Indeed, one of the first things that the fortress commander insisted upon as soon as he was awakened by his soldier servant and given his cup of acorn coffee was for the quartermaster to report the state of the sawdust. Now, over a week after Germany surrendered, Fahrmbacher summoned his quartermaster and asked, “How many railroad sleepers have we left?” The quartermaster hesitated, and the big general knew instinctively that he was in trouble. Slowly, avoiding the general’s eyes, the quartermaster replied, “One!”

Fahrmbacher knew the situation was hopeless. He could not feed the garrison with a couple of sacks of molding flour and the sawdust provided by one lone wooden sleeper. It was time to surrender.

That afternoon, he sent his last message to Dönitz far away in North Germany at the small coastal town of Murwik. It read, “Wish to sign off with my steadfast and unbeaten men. We remember our sorely tried homeland. Long Live Germany.” Thereupon, he ordered one of his officers to make contact with the French besiegers in order to surrender. A little later, the elderly general found himself serving five years in a Parisian jail for having disfigured French property. His real crime was that he did not know the whereabouts of the French postage stamps that had been overprinted with the word “LORIENT” and used by the garrison. His French interrogator had wanted them for himself, knowing they were rare and would soon be valuable. They were, and they are. Today, each one of those 60-year-old stamps is worth at least $1,000.


The Last German Surrender

Weather played an important role during the Second World War. It dictated the outcome of Naval battles and decided the routes of military convoys. Weather and visibility affected photographic reconnaissance and bombing raids. Much of D-day planning revolved around the weather, and the landing itself was delayed by 24 hours because of choppy seas. Weather information was so sensitive that it was transmitted encoded from weather stations.

By August 1941, the Allies had captured many weather stations operated by the Germans on Greenland and on Spitsbergen, in the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway. These stations were critical because the air over Svalbard told a lot about what was coming over the North Atlantic and continental Europe. Spitsbergen was an especially important location as it enabled the Germans to monitor weather conditions on the Allied convoy route to northern Russia.

Svalbard Archipelago lies in the Arctic Ocean about a thousand kilometers from the North Pole. This frozen wasteland was first used as a whaling base in the 17th and 18th centuries, after which it was abandoned. Then coal mining began, which led to the establishment of several permanent communities. When Norway came under German occupation in 1940, the Nazis took control of the oil fields and the weather stations there. At that time the Soviet Union had not entered the war. But this changed once Germany invaded the Union in July 1941. At once, the United Kingdom and Canada sent military forces to Svalbard to destroy German installations and their weather stations.

The approximate location of the weather station of Operation Haudegen. Political map of Svalbard by Peter Hermes Furian/Shutterstock.com

The Germans made many attempts to set up weather stations on Spitsbergen, but all failed or fell to the Allies. In October 1941, the Nazis established a reporting station in Spitsbergen, but this was chased away by British warships the following month. A second station was established at Ny Alesund in 1941 and remained in operation for a year until this too was evacuated.

In September 1944, the Germans set up their last weather station, code named Operation Haudegen, on Nordaustlandet, one of the most remote and northerly of the main islands in Svalbard. A U-boat and a supply vessel deposited eleven men, along with equipment, arms, ammunitions and supplies on the island and hurriedly retreated back to Norway before they could be discovered by Allied warships. The men set up the weather station and erected two inconspicuous flat-roofed huts using wooden panels and camouflaged with white nets.

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Operation Haudegen started in December 1944. Five times a day, the station transmitted encrypted weather forecasts to the German naval command at Tromsø. In addition, once a week, they sent a hydrogen-filled weather balloon to 8,000 meters to obtain data from the upper atmosphere. The remaining time was spent exploring the island and learning about science, geography, philosophy and mathematics from the leader of the expedition, Dr. Wilhelm Dege. The young men built a sauna and helped themselves to the ample food supplies, enjoying delicacies like reindeer meat which most Germans at that time could only dream of in their bomb cellars.

Siegfried Czapka, the 18-year-old radio operator, told the German magazine Der Spiegel in 2010: “It was an unforgettable experience we had everything but beer."

But of course, life in the Arctic was harsh. Temperatures went well below freezing, there were snow storms and daylight was scarce. Polar bears were another threat. The men had to carry rifles with them every time they went outside. The men had been given rigorous training to deal with the hardship. They learned to ski, rappel down cliffs, build igloos, cook and bake, pull teeth, attend to gunshot wounds, and even amputate frozen limbs.

A member of the weather station pulls an infected tooth of a colleague. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

On May 8, 1945, the men received a message from their commanders in Tromsø that Germany had surrendered and the war was over. They were ordered to dispose of explosives, destroy secret documents and send weather reports unencoded. Then there was complete radio silence. The men tried contacting base but there was no reply. They started transmitting their coordinates on the wave lengths the Allies used but no ship or aircraft appeared. The men had two years worth of ration, but the idea of getting stuck on ice for any amount of time held little appeal. The men worried about their families back in Germany, whether they were still alive or killed by air raids. In desperation, they started transmitting on Allied distress channels.

Towards the end of August, a reply was received. Norwegian authorities assured the stranded men that a ship would set sail for Spitsbergen in early September. Their joy was boundless when on the night of September 3rd and 4th, a vessel arrived in the fjord near the weather station. It was a seal-hunting ship that was chartered by the Norwegian navy in order to pick up the Germans.

The Norwegians came ashore and they all had a big celebratory meal together. Then the commanding officer of the Germans formally surrendered—four months after the war ended—by handing over his service pistol to the Norwegian captain.

"The Norwegian stared at it and asked ‘Can I keep this then?’”, recalled Dr. Eckhard Dege, the son of Wilhelm Dege, the commanding officer. “My father explained that he could because they were surrendering.”

The men were taken to Tromsø where they became prisoners of war for three months. In December 1945, they returned to their homes, to a divided country. Some found themselves on East Germany, others on the West. The men of the unit tried to meet each other, but it became impossible due to the tensions between East and West Germany. It was only 60 years after the incident, that two of the survivors were reunited for a trip to the island.

Geologist Wilhelm Dege, head of Operation Haudegen. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Soldiers kill time with music. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

The men celebrate Christmas in 1944. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

A man returns with a slain reindeer. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

A member of the weather station with a slain polar bear. Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

Photo: From the archive of Wilhelm Dege

In 2004 Siegfried Czapka (right) returns to the old weather station on North East Land, Spitzbergen together with a colleague. Photo: Siegfried Cap


Contents

Records of German military search service Edit

In the post-war era the military search service Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) has been responsible for providing information for the families of those military personnel who were killed or went missing in the war. They maintain the files of over 18 million men who served in the war. By the end of 1954, they had identified approximately 4 million military dead and missing (2,730,000 dead and 1,240,629 missing). [20] (Since the fall of communism the records in the former GDR (East Germany) have become available to the WASt). The German Red Cross reported in 2005 that the records of the military search service WAS list total Wehrmacht losses at 4.3 million men (3.1 million dead and 1.2 million missing) in World War II. Their figures include Austria and conscripted ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. [5] The German historian Rüdiger Overmans used the files of WASt) to conduct his research project on German military casualties.

Wartime statistics compiled by German High Command (OKW) Edit

The German military system for reporting casualties was based on a numerical reporting of casualties by individual units and a separate listing of the names of individual casualties. The system was not uniform because various military branches such as the Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen SS and the military hospitals each had different systems of reporting. In early 1945 the German High Command (OKW) prepared a summary of total losses up to January 31, 1945. The German historian Rüdiger Overmans believes, based on his research, that these figures are incomplete and unreliable. According to Overmans, the casualty reporting system broke down in the chaos at the end of the war. Many men who went missing or were taken prisoner were not included in the German High Command (OKW) figures. Overmans maintains that many individual reports of casualties were not processed by the end of the war and are not reflected in the German High Command (OKW) statistics. [21]

The following schedules summarize the OKW figures published in the post-war era.

Reported in the press in 1945 Edit

According to a report published by the Reuters News Agency, on July 29 1945 highly confidential archives found at Flensburg, in the house of General Reinecke showed German losses up to November 30, 1944 as 3.6 million, detailed in the following schedule.

Army Navy Air Force Total
Killed 1,710,000 52,000 150,000 1,912,000
Missing 1,541,000 32,000 141,000 1,714,000
Total 3,251,000 84,000 291,000 3,626,000

Source of figures: Gregory Frumkin. Population Changes in Europe Since 1939, Geneva 1951. Page 72

OKW war diary Edit

Percy Ernst Schramm was responsible for maintaining the official OKW diary during the war. In 1949 he published an article in the newspaper Die Zeit, in which he listed OKW Casualty Figures [22] these figures also appeared in a multi-volume edition of the OKW diaries.

OKW Casualty Figures Sept 1, 1939 to Jan 31, 1945

Description Dead Missing & POW Total Wounded & Sick
Army
Eastern Front 1,105,987 1,018,365 2,124,352 3,498,059
North: Norway/Finland 16,639 5,157 21,796 60,451
Southwest: N Africa/Italy 50,481 194,250 244,731 163,602
Southeast: Balkans 19,235 14,805 34,040 55,069
West: France/Belgium 107,042 409,715 516,757 399,856
Training Forces 10,467 1,337 11,804 42,174
Died of Wounds-All Fronts 295,659 - 295,659 -
Location not Given 17,051 2,687 19,738 -
Subtotal (Army) 1,622,561 1,646,316 3,268,877 4,188,037
Navy 48,904 100,256 149,160 25,259
Air Force 138,596 156,132 294,728 216,579
Total Combat: All Branches 1,810,061 1,902,704 3,712,765 4,429,875
Other deaths (Disease, accidents, etc.) 191,338 - 191,338 -
Overall total 2,001,399 1,902,704 3,904,103 4,429,875

Source of Figures: Percy Schramm Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht: 1940—1945: 8 Bde. 1961 (ISBN 9783881990738) Pages 1508-1511

1-These statistics include losses of the Waffen SS as well as Volkssturm and paramilitary serving with the regular forces. [23]

2-These statistics include casualties of the volunteer forces from the Soviet Union. 83,307 dead 57,258 missing and 118,127 wounded.

3-Included in these statistics are 322,807 POWs held by the US and UK.

4-The figures for Army wounded add up to 4,219,211. Schramm put the total at 4,188,057.

5-Figures of missing include POWs held by Allies.

West German government Statistisches Jahrbuch (Statistical Yearbook). Edit

A. OKW figures from 9/1/1939 to 12/31/1944

Description Dead Missing and prisoners of war Total Wounded
Army and Waffen SS 1,750,000 1,610,000 3,360,000 5,026,000
Navy 60,000 100,000 160,000 21,000
Air Force 155,000 148,000 303,000 193,000
Total Wehrmacht 1,965,000 1,858,000 3,823,000 5,240,000

Source: Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1960, Page 78

B. Monthly Field Army (Feldheer) casualties September 1939 to November 1944

Year Casualties January February March April May June July August September October November December
1939 Dead - - - - - - - - 16,400 1,800 1,000 900
1939 Missing - - - - - - - - 400 - - -
1940 Dead 800 700 1,100 2,600 21,600 26,600 2,200 1,800 1,600 1,300 1,200 1,200
1940 Missing - 100 - 400 900 100 - - 100 100 100 -
1941 Dead 1,400 1,300 1,600 3,600 2,800 22,000 51,000 52,800 45,300 42,400 28,200 39,000
1941 Missing 100 100 100 600 500 900 3,200 3,500 2,100 1,900 4,300 10,500
1942 Dead 44,400 44,500 44,900 25,600 29,600 31,500 36,000 54,100 44,300 25,500 24,900 38,000
1942 Missing 10,100 4,100 3,600 1,500 3,600 2,100 3,700 7,300 3,400 2,600 12,100 40,500
1943 Dead 37,000 42,000 38,100 15,300 16,200 13,400 57,800 58,000 48,800 47,000 40,200 35,300
1943 Missing 127,600 15,500 5,200 3,500 74,500 1,300 18,300 26,400 21,900 16,800 17,900 14,700
1944 Dead 44,500 41,200 44,600 34,000 24,400 26,000 59,000 64,000 42,400 46,000 31,900 -
1944 Missing 22,000 19,500 27,600 13,000 22,000 32,000 310,000 407,600 67,200 79,200 69,500 -

Notes: Figures include Waffen SS, Austrians and conscripted ethnic Germans. Figures for missing include POW held by Allies. Source: Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1960, Page 78

Das Heer 1933–1945 by Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand Edit

In 1969, the West German military historian Burkhart Müller-Hillebrand (de) published the third volume of his study of the German Army in World War II Das Heer 1933–1945 that listed OKW casualty figures and his estimate of total German casualties. Müller-Hillebrand maintained that the OKW figures did not present an accurate accounting of German casualties because they understated losses in the final months of the war on the eastern front and post war deaths of POW in Soviet captivity. According to Müller-Hillebrand actual irrecoverable losses in the war were between 3.3 and 4.5 million men. Overall Müller-Hillebrand estimated the total dead and missing at 4.0 million men. [24]

A. Losses Reported by OKW September 1 1939 – April 30 1945 (For all branches of service)

Period Dead from all causes MIA and Prisoners of War Total
Actual:Sept 1, 1939- Dec 31,1944 1,965,324 1,858,404 3,823,728
Estimated: Jan 1, 1945 - April 30, 1945 265,000 1,012,000 1,277,000
Total 2,230,324 2,870,404 5,100,728

Source: Müller-Hillebrand Das Heer 1933–1945 Vol 3. Page 262

The figure of 1,277,000 killed and missing from January 1 1945 - April 30 1945 was estimated by the U.S. Army in the 1947 report German Manpower [25]

B. Field Army (Feldheer) casualties September 1939 to November 1944

Year Dead Missing
1939/40 76,848 2,038
1940/41 140,378 8,769
1941/42 455,635 58,049
1942/43 413,009 330,904
1943/44 502,534 925,088
1944 until Nov 30. 121,335 215,981
Total 1,709,739 1,540,829

Source: Müller-Hillebrand Das Heer 1933–1945 Vol 3. Page 264

C. Field Army (Feldheer) casualties September 1939 to November 1944

Campaign Dead Missing
Poland 1939 16,343 320
Norway 1940 4,975 691
West until May 31, 1944 66,266 3,218
West June 1944-November 30, 1944 54,754 338,933
Africa 1940 - May 1943 12,808 90,052
Balkans 1941 - November 30, 1944 24,267 12,060
Italy May 1943 - November 30, 1944 47,873 97,154
Russia June 1941-November 30, 1944 1,419,728 997,056
Home front 1939-November 30, 1944 64,055 1,315

Source: Müller-Hillebrand Das Heer 1933–1945 Vol.3 Page 265

Strength by service branch Edit

Strength by Service Branch
Branch May 1941 Middle 1944
Army(Heer) 3,800,000 4,400,000
Home Army(Ersatzheer) 1,200,000 2,500,000
Air Force (including infantry units) 1,680,000 2,100,000
Navy 404,000 800,000
Waffen SS 150,000 550,000
Total 7,234,000 10,300,000

Source:Geschichte des Zweiten Weltkreiges, A.G Ploetz verlag -Würzburg 1960 pp. 122–24

Statistical study by Rüdiger Overmans Edit

The German historian Rüdiger Overmans in 2000 published the study Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg (German Military Casualties in the Second World War), which has provided a reassessment of German military war dead based on a statistical survey of German military personnel records. The financial support for the study came from a private foundation. When Overmans conducted his research project during 1992 to 1994 he was an officer in the German Armed Forces. Overmans was an associate of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office from 1987 until 2004 and was on the faculty of the University of Freiburg from 1996-2001. In 1992 when Overmans began the project, German military dead in the war listed at the military search service Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) were 4.3 million men (3.1 million confirmed dead and 1.2 missing and presumed dead). Since the collapse of communism previously classified documentation regarding German military casualties became available to German researchers.

The research project involved taking a statistical sample of the confidential German military personnel records located at the (WASt). The project sought to determine total deaths and their cause, when and in which theatre of war the losses occurred as well as a demographic profile of the men who served in the war. Nineteen employees at Deutsche Dienststelle assisted in the survey. The personnel records included 3,070,000 men who were confirmed dead in the Death Files and another 15,200,000 men in the General Files who had served in the war including those listed as missing and presumed dead. The total sample pulled for the research consisted of the files of 4,844 personnel dead or missing in military service during the war: The first group 4,137 from Army, Air Force and 172 from Waffen SS and paramilitary organizations including (3,051 confirmed dead from the Death Files and another 1,258 found to be dead or missing in the General Files) The Second Group of 535 men found to be dead or missing was selected from the separate Navy files. Overmans maintains that based on the size of the sample selected that there was a 99% confidence level that the results were accurate. The research by Overmans concluded in 2000 that the total German military dead and missing were 5,318,000. The results of the Overmans research project were published with the endorsement of the German Armed Forces Military History Research Office of the Federal Ministry of Defense (Germany). [26]

The following schedules give a brief overview of the Overmans study.

By Official Status (per R. Overmans) [27]
Description Number of Deaths
Confirmed Dead 3,068,000
Declared dead in legal proceedings 1,095,787
Recorded in Records (Registrierfall) 1,154,744
Total Dead 5,318,531
By Official Cause of Death (per R. Overmans) [27]
Cause of Death Number of dead
Killed in Action 2,303,320
Died of Wounds, Illness etc. 500,165
Suicides 25,000
Sentenced to Death 11,000
No Information 12,000
Subtotal-Dead in Active Service 2,851,485
Missing 1,306,186
Final Report "Letzte Nachricht" 701,385 [28]
Sub-total- Presumed Dead 2,007,571
Confirmed deaths as POW 459,475
Total Dead 5,318,531

Of the 2 million presumed dead, Overmans believes 700,000 died in Soviet custody without being reported as POWs. [29]

By Front (per R. Overmans) [30]
Front Total Dead
Eastern Front until 12/31/44 2,742,909
Western Front until 12/31/44 339,957
Final Battles in Germany (East & West fronts Jan.-May, 1945) 1,230,045
Other (Germany,Naval, Poland etc.) 245,561
Italy (until the surrender in 1945) 150,660
The Balkans (until Oct. 1944) 103,693
Northern Europe (Scandinavia without Finland) 30,165
Africa 16,066
Prisoners of War 459,475
Total 5,318,531

Overmans states that there is not sufficient data to break down the 1,230,045 deaths in the 1945 "final battles" in Germany between the Western Allied invasion of Germany and Eastern Front in 1945, although he estimates that 2/3 of these casualties can be attributed to the Eastern Front. [31] This proportion (2/3 East vs. 1/3 West) contradicts the Heeresarzt weekly casualty reports for the army regarding the period from 1.1.-20.4.1945, [32] according to which ca. 83 % of the KIA and 87 % of the WIA in the "final battles" occurred in the East. [33]
For the entire year 1945 Overmans puts total losses at 1,540,000 (1,230,045 in the final battles 57,495 in other theaters and 252,188 POW). [34] Overmans 1,230,045 figure for the "final battles" includes (1) killed, (2) missing, (3) otherwise deceased "without prisoners of war", as is differentiated on p. 272. The missing (697,319) does not include confirmed deaths in captivity, however on page 288 Overmans mentions 400,000 missing in the East in 1945 and states that this figure of missing was based on his finding that two thirds of deaths during the "final battles" occurred in the East of Germany. He further argues (p. 289) that about half of the 1,536,000 missing in the East between 1941 and 1945, according to his calculations, may well have died in Soviet captivity. On the other hand, Overmans states that "300,000 soldiers per month" (p.275), "that is, 10,000 men per day" (p.279, cf. p.283, also stated in the introduction) actually lost their lives in 1945. Overall, Overmans estimates losses for the entire war on the Eastern front at 4 million and in the West 1 million. [35]

Monthly German military casualties at point of death per Overmans study. (Not including living POWs still held.)

Year January February March April May June July August September October November December Total
1939 - - - - - - - - 15,000 3,000 1,000 - 19,000
1940 2,000 - 5,000 3,000 21,000 29,000 7,000 4,000 4,000 5,033 1,000 2,000 83,000
1941 10,000 1,000 4,000 4,000 13,000 29,000 67,132 51,066 53,033 44,099 38,000 42,198 357,000
1942 53,165 52,099 46,132 24,066 44,099 34,033 46,099 74,231 46,033 30,000 38,231 83,792 572,000
1943 185,376 74,363 59,099 21,066 31,099 21,066 79,231 66,198 69,495 61,330 77,396 66,330 812,000
1944 81,330 91,495 112,759 92,363 78,495 182,178 215,013 348,960 151,957 184,089 103,561 159,386 1,802,000
1945 451,742 294,772 284,442 281,848 94,528 20,066 13,000 27,099 22,132 19,000 21,033 10,066 1,540,000
1946 7,000 13,099 14,000 6,000 10,066 3,000 3,000 6,000 5,033 3,000 2,000 4,000 76,000
1947 3,008 2,000 5,033 3,000 1,000 5,033 2,000 5,033 1,000 2,000 3,000 1,000 33,000
After 1947 - - - - - - - - - - - - 25,000
Total All Years - - - - - - - - - - - - 5,318,000

Notes: Figures include Waffen SS, Austrians, conscripted ethnic Germans, Volkssturm, and other paramilitary forces. Figures do not include prisoners held by Allies. Prisoners held during the war are listed in a separate schedule below. Monthly figures do not add because of rounding.

Total Missing and Presumed Dead (not including POW) per Overmans [36]
Year of Death Amount (of which on Soviet-German front)
1941 & before 30,000 (26,000)
1942 116,000 (108,000)
1943 289,000 (283,000
1944 845,000 (719,000)
1945 728,000 (400,000)
1946 & later 0 0
Total 2,007,000 (1,536,000)
German military dead on the Eastern Front (per R. Overmans) [27]
Total During Year Total Dead
1941 302,000
1942 507,000
1943 701,000
1944 1,233,000
Total 1941-1944 2,742,000

Soviet sources reported that "In 1945 the German Army lost more than 1,000,000 men killed on the Soviet-German front alone." [37]

Figures do not include POW deaths of 363,000 in Soviet captivity these losses were listed separately by Overmans.

Number conscripted by Service Branch (per R. Overmans) [38]
Branch Total Dead Total Conscripted
Army 4,200,000 13,600,000
Air Force (including infantry units) 430,000 2,500,000
Navy 140,000 1,200,000
Waffen SS 310,000 900,000
Total 5,080,000 18,200,000
By Service Branch (per R. Overmans) [34]
Branch Total Dead
Army 4,202,000
Air Force (including infantry units) 433,000
Navy 138,000
Support Troops 53,000
Total Wehrmacht 4,826,000
Waffen SS 314,000
Volkssturm 78,000
Police 63,000
Other Organizations 37,000
Total 5,318,000
By Nation of Origin (per R. Overmans) [39] [40] War dead(Wehrmacht & Waffen SS) Conscripted(Wehrmacht only)
Germany (post war 1945 borders) 3,546,000 11,813,000
Germany (former Eastern Territories) and Danzig) [41] 910,000 2,525,000
Subtotal Germany (1937 borders including Danzig) [41] 4,456,000 14,338,000
Foreign nationals of German ancestry in annexed regions of East and Southeast Europe [42] Annexed Territories (Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany, Sudetenland, Eupen-Malmedy & Memel) 206,000 588,000
Austria 261,000 1,306,000
Subtotal Greater German Reich 4,932,000 16,232,000
Foreign nationals of German ancestry from East and Southeast Europe (Poland, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia) [42] 332,000 846,000
French (Alsace-Lorraine) 30,000 136,000
Others (from Western Europe) 33,000 86,000
Total 5,318,000 17,300,000

According to Overmans there are no reliable figures to breakout the national origin for the figure of 900,000 men of German ancestry conscripted into the Waffen-SS [42] Overmans maintains that records of the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) surveyed only persons of German ancestry "deutsche nach Abstammung" [42] However Polish sources maintain that during the war the Germans forcibly conscripted ethnic Poles into the German military. Professor Ryszard Kaczmarek of the University of Silesia in Katowice, author of a monograph titled Polacy w Wehrmachcie ("Poles in the Wehrmacht") noted that many Polish citizens in the Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany were forcibly conscripted in Upper Silesia and in Pomerania. They were declared citizens of the Third Reich by law and therefore subject to drumhead court-martial in case of draft evasion. [43] A 1958 West German estimate put the military war dead of ethnic German(deutschen Bevölkerung) foreign nationals from east-central Europe in the German Armed Forces at 432,000 (Baltic States 15,000, Poland 108,000, Czechoslovakia 180,000, Hungary 32,000, Yugoslavia 40,000 and Romania 35,000) [44]

Overmans does not include Russian volunteers in the Wehrmacht in his figures, only persons of German ancestry (Deutsche nach Abstammung). According to Overmans there is no reliable data on losses of Soviet volunteers [45] Russian military historian G. I. Krivosheev estimated losses in the Wehrmacht of volunteer formations and SS troops (Vlasovites, Balts, Muslims etc.) at 215,000. [46] The statistics of the German High Command put casualties of the volunteer forces from the Soviet Union up until 1/31/1945 at: 83,307 dead 57,258 missing and 118,127 wounded [47]

Comparison of figures at 12/31/1944 of Overmans and German High Command Edit

Overmans maintains that his research project taking a statistical sample of the records of the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) found that the German military casualty reporting system broke down during the war and that losses were understated. The following schedule compares the total dead and living POW according to Overmans at 12/31/1944 with the figures of the German High Command.

Description - Total
Total Dead per Overmans @12/31/44 3,643,000 [48]
Add:POW held by Allies per Overmans 1,283,000 [49]
Add:Estimated losses of Soviet Volunteers 140,000 [47]
Adjusted Losses @12/31/1944 5,066,000
Total Dead & Missing per OKW @12/31/1944 3,823,000 [50]
Difference 1,243,000

German prisoners of war Edit

The fates of German prisoners of war have been a concern in post war Germany. By 1950 the Soviets reported that they had repatriated all German prisoners of war except a small number of convicted war criminals. During the cold war in West Germany there were claims that one million German prisoners of war were held in secret by the USSR. The West German government set up the Maschke Commission to investigate the fate of German POW in the war in its report of 1974 the Maschke Commission found that about 1.2 million German military personnel reported as missing more than likely died as POWs, including 1.1 million in the USSR. [51] Based on his research, Rüdiger Overmans believes that the deaths of 459,000 dead POWs can be confirmed in the files of Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)(including 363,000 in the USSR). Overmans estimates the actual death toll of German POWs is about 1.1 million men (including 1.0 million in the USSR) he maintains that among those reported as missing were men who actually died as prisoners. [52] Data from the Soviet Archives published by G. I. Krivosheev put the deaths in the USSR of German POWs at 450,600 including 356,700 in NKVD camps and 93,900 in transit. [46] After the collapse of communism, data from the Soviet Archives became available concerning the deaths of German POWs in the USSR. In recent years there has been a joint Russian-German project to investigate the fate of POWs in the war. [5]

According to the records of the western Allies 2.8 million German soldiers surrendered on the Western Front between D-day and the end of April 1945 1.3 million between D-day and March 31, 1945, [53] and 1.5 million of them in the month of April. [54] From early March these surrenders seriously weakened the Wehrmacht in the West, and made further surrenders more likely, thus having a snowballing effect. On March 27 Eisenhower declared at a press conference that the enemy were a whipped army . [55] In March the daily rate of POWs taken on the Western Front was 10,000 [56] in the first 14 days of April it rose to 39,000 [57] and in the last 16 days the average peaked at 59,000 soldiers captured each day. [58] The number of prisoners taken in the west in March and April was over 1,800,000, [59] more than double the 800,000 German soldiers who surrendered to the Russians in the last three or four months of the war. [60] One reason for this huge difference, possibly the most important, was that German forces facing the Red Army tended to fight to the end for fear of Soviet captivity whereas German forces facing the Western Allies tended to surrender without putting up much if any resistance. Accordingly the number of German killed and wounded was much higher in the East than in the West. [61] [62]

The Western Allies also took 134,000 German soldiers prisoner in North Africa [63] , and at least 220,000 by the end of April 1945 in the Italian campaign [63] . The total haul of German POWs held by the Western Allies by April 30, 1945 in all theatres of war was over 3,150,000, rising in NW Europe to 7,614,790 after the end of the war. [64]

It is worth noting that the allied armies which captured the 2.8 million German soldiers up to April 30, 1945, while Adolf Hitler was still alive and resisting as hard as he could, comprised at their peak 88 divisions, [65] with a peak strength in May 1945 of 2,639,377 in the US and 1,095,744 in the British and Canadian forces. [66] The casualties suffered by the Western Allies in making this contribution to the defeat of the Wehrmacht were relatively light, 164,590–195,576 killed/missing, 537,590 wounded, and 78,680 taken prisoner, [67] [68] a total loss of 780,860 to 811,846 to inflict a loss of 2.8 million prisoners on the German army. The number of dead and wounded on both sides was about equal. [69] This, plus the fact that most surrenders occurred in April 1945, suggests that (unlike on the Eastern Front (World War II), where the number of German killed and wounded far exceeded the number of prisoners taken by the Soviets), most German soldiers who surrendered to the Western Allies did so without a fight. For instance, in the battle of the Ruhr Pocket, there were about 10,000 fatalities on the German side (including prisoners of war in German captivity, foreign forced laborers, Volkssturm militia and unarmed civilians), [70] whereas about 317,000 Germans surrendered. "Many a German walked mile after mile before finding an American not too occupied with other duties to bother to accept his surrender." [71] For comparison, in the Battle of Halbe on the Eastern Front from 24 April to 1 May 1945, over 30,000 German soldiers, out of a much smaller number encircled, were killed fighting the Red Army. [72]

German POW deaths- Overmans estimate 2000
Nation holding Prisoners of War Number captured Deaths
UK ca. 3,600,000 c. 2,000
USA ca. 3,000,000 5-10,000
USSR ca. 3,000,000 max. 1,000,000
France ca.1,000,000 more than 22,000
Yugoslavia ca.200,000 ca. 80,000
Poland ca.70,000 ca. 10,000
Belgium ca.60,000 ca. 500
Czechoslovakia ca.25,000 ca. 2,000
Netherlands ca. 7,000 ca. 200
Luxemburg ca. 5,000 15
Total ca. 11,000,000 ca. 1,100,000

Source of figures-Rüdiger Overmans, Soldaten hinter Stacheldraht. Deutsche Kriegsgefangene des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Page 246.

Confirmed POW Deaths
Nation holding POW Total Dead
USSR 363,000
France 34,000
USA 22,000
UK 21,000
Yugoslavia 11,000
Other nations 8,000
Total 459,000

Source of figures Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg page 286

German POW Held in Captivity (Per R. Overmans) [73]
Average during Quarter Held Western Allies Held by Soviets & their Allies Total Living POW
4th Quarter 1941 6,600 26,000 32,600
4th Quarter 1942 22,300 100,000 122,300
4th Quarter 1943 200,000 155,000 355,000
4th Quarter 1944 720,000 563,000 1,283,000
1st Quarter 1945 920,000 1,103,000 2,023,000
2nd Quarter 1945 5,440,000 2,130,000 7,570,000
3rd Quarter 1945 6,672,000 2,163,000 8,835,000

Source:Rüdiger Overmans Soldaten hinter Stacheldraht. Deutsche Kriegsgefangene des Zweiten Weltkriege. Ullstein Taschenbuch vlg., 2002 Pages 272-273

Overmans has made the following points in Deutsche militärische Verluste im Zweiten Weltkrieg

  • Based on his research Overmans believes that the total of 459,000 dead POWs listed in the files of Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) is understated. He maintains that included with the 2 million reported as missing and presumed dead (see above schedule – Total Missing and Presumed Dead) were those in fact dead in custody as POWs. He points out that this will not increase the number of German war dead because some of those reported missing would be reclassified as dead POWs. He believes further research is needed on the fate of the POWs. [74]
  • He believes that in addition to the 363,000 confirmed POW dead in the USSR, it seems entirely plausible, while not provable, that 700,000 German military personnel listed with the missing actually died in Soviet custody[74]
  • He believes that personnel captured on the battlefield may have died of wounds or in transit before being recorded as POW. He pointed out that this was the case of some Germans in American and British hospitals. [75]
  • He maintains "Otherwise viewing the case of France, where the figures of the Maschke Commission are based on official French data an important point to presume, that from the 180,000 missing on the Western front, many were dead in fact in French custody, or soldiers in Indochina.[74]
  • He pointed out that the heavy death toll estimated by the Maschke Commission of 80,000 German POW in Yugoslavia was based on documented eyewitness accounts. [74]

Russian sources Edit

The Russian military historian G. I. Krivosheev has published figures for the casualties on all fronts compiled by the German High Command up until April 30 1945 based on captured German records in the Soviet Archives.

Period Killed or Died of Wounds MIA and Prisoners of War Total Wounded
Sept 1, 1939- Dec 31,1944 1,965,300 1,858,500 3,823,800 5,240,000
Jan 1, 1945 - April 30, 1945 265,000 1,012,000 1,277,000 795,000
Total 2,230,300 2,870,500 5,100,800 6,035,000

Krivosheev gave a separate set of statistics that put losses at 2,230,000 Killed 2,400,000 missing and 5,240,000 wounded. According to Krivosheev "The figures in the Wehrmacht documents relating to Germany's war losses are therefore contradictory and unreliable." [76]

Based on Soviet sources Krivosheev put German losses on the Eastern Front from 1941-1945 at 6,923,700 men: including – killed 4,137,100, taken prisoner 2,571,600 and 215,000 dead among Russian volunteers in the Wehrmacht. Deaths of POW were 450,600 including 356,700 in NKVD camps and 93,900 in transit. [46] Soviet sources claimed that "In 1945 the German Army lost more than 1,000,000 men killed on the Soviet-German front alone." [37]

Estimated figures for German World War II casualties are divergent and contradictory. The authors of the Oxford Companion to World War II maintain that casualty statistics are notoriously unreliable [77] The following is a list of published statistics for German casualties in World War II.

    , article World Wars (2010) Military-killed, died of wounds or in prison – 3,500,000 wounded – 5,000,000 prisoners or missing – 3,400,000 civilian deaths due to war – 780,000. Estimated total deaths – 4,200,000. (Military deaths include men conscripted outside of Germany, in addition perhaps 250,000 died of natural causes, suicide or were executed. Civilian deaths do not include Austria or 2,384,000 deaths in the Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–50)[78]
  • Oxford Companion to World War II (2005) Military losses – Germany 4,500,000, Austria 230,000 Civilian losses – Germany 2,000,000, Austria 144,000. Total losses for Germany and Austria – 6,874,000. [77]
  • World War II Desk Reference (2004) 1,810,061 combat deaths and 1,902,704 missing and presumed dead, total 3,712,865. Civilians killed 3,600,000. [79]
  • Encyclopedia of World War Two (2004) Battle deaths 2,049,872 wounded 4,879,875 missing in action 1,902,704. Civilians dead 410,000. [80]
  • Warfare and Armed Conflicts – A Statistical Reference (2002) Total military dead all causes 3,250,000 including battle deaths of 2,850,000 wounded 7,250,000. Civilian deaths 593,000 in Anglo-American bombing (including 56,000 foreign workers and 40,000 Austrians), 10,000 killed in the crossfire in the west and 619,000 lost to Soviets and their allies in the east. [81]
  • Atlas of the Second World War (1997) Germany-military dead 2,850,000 civilian dead 2,300,000. Austria- military dead 380,000 civilian dead 145,000. [82]
  • World War II – A statistical Survey (1993) Military killed and Missing 3,250,000 wounded 4,606,600. Civilians 2,050,000 by Allies and 300,000 by Germans. [83]
  • Harper Encyclopedia of Military History (1993) Military- 2,850,000 dead and 7,250,000 wounded. Civilian dead 500,000. [84] (1992)- Military dead 3,250,000 and 3,600,000 to 3,810,000 civilian dead. [85] (1990) over 4 million military dead 593,000 civilians died under air attack possibly 1.0 million civilians died in the flight from the Red Army. An additional 2.1 million civilians perished in the expulsions from Eastern Europe. [86] (1990-1997)- According to the calculations of R. J. Rummel the combined German and Austrian death toll due to the war and political killings by governments (Democide) in the World War II era was 10.1 million persons. Rummel's maintains that his figures for war dead exclude political killings by governments. [87][88] The details of Rummel's estimates are as follows.
  • Wars and War-Related Deaths 1700-1987 (1987)- Germany/Austria total deaths 6,626,000 - Germany (military 4,750,000 civilians 1,471,000), Austria (military 280,000 civilians 125,000) [96] and J. David Singer (1982) Germany military dead 3,250,000 [97] (1965) Germany total deaths 3,750,000 - (military 3,250,000 civilians 500,000) [98]
  • English language sources have put the death toll at 2 to 3 million for the flight and expulsion of the Germans. These figures are based on the West German government figures from the 1960s . [99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108]

According to the report of General George Marshall issued in 1945 the "breakdown of German and Italian losses against American, British, and French forces" in the war in Europe was as follows:

Campaign Battle Dead Permanently Disabled Captured Total
Tunisia 19,600 19,000 130,000(A) 168,000
Sicily 5,000 2,000 7,100 14,100
Italy 86,000 15,000 357,089 458,089
Western Front 263,000 49,000 7,614,794 (B) 7,926,794
Total 373,600 85,000 8,108,983 8,567,583

Source of figures: Biennial report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army to the Secretary of War : July 1, 1943, to June 30, 1945 [109]

(A) 252,415 Germans and Italians were captured in Tunisia [110] According to the Imperial War Museum Following the Italian surrender in 1943, 100,000 Italians volunteered to work as 'co-operators'. They were given considerable freedom and mixed with local people. [111] Italian fascist forces fought in the Italian campaign until the end of the war with the Italian Social Republic

(B) Includes 3,404,949 disarmed enemy forces.

The Biennial report of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army issued in 1945 also estimated Japanese "battle dead" at 1.219 million. [109] Marshall's figures of enemy battle deaths are juxtaposed with deaths in the US Army only, suggesting that the losses of Japanese naval forces are not included. Japanese government figures from 2003 put their military war dead at 2.3 million. [112] According to the Japanese Relief Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in March 1964, a total of 2,121,000 Japanese servicemen perished in WWII. [113] Of these 1,647,200 were in the army and 473,800 were in the naval forces. Of the army dead a total of 1,456,500 occurred on the battlefronts that Marshall's figures refer to (Southern Pacific, [114] Central Pacific, [115] India-Burma, [116] China [117] and Aleutians. [118] ) Marshall's figure for China is much lower than that of the Relief Bureau (126,000 vs. 435,600), but for the theaters where Japanese forces confronted American and British Empire forces the sum of Marshall's figures (1,093,000) is slightly higher than the sum of the Relief Bureau's figures for these theaters (1,020,900).

Based on information available in January 1946, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. put German military dead at 3,250,000. According to Gregory Frumkin this presumably referred to aggregate German forces including those conscripted outside the 1937 German borders. [119] [120]

In 1951, Gregory Frumkin, who was throughout its existence the editor of the Statistical Year Book of the League of Nations, provided an assessment of German military losses based on a demographic analysis of the European population from 1939 to 1947. Frumkin put total German military dead and missing at 3,975,000: Germany (1937 borders) 3,500,000 Austria 230,000 200,000 Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia 40,000 from France, 3,700 from the Netherlands 700 from Norway and 398 from Denmark. [121]

The West German government in November 1949, based on an analysis of the population balance for Germany within its 1937 borders, put German military losses at 3,250,000: 1,650,000 killed and 1,600,000 missing. Figures exclude Austria and conscripted ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe [122]

A demographic analysis of the population balance by the West German government in 1960 put the total military losses of the Wehrmacht at 4,440,000 3,760,000 for Germany (1937 borders) 430,000 conscripted ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and 250,000 from Austria. [123]

Air raid deaths Edit

Official statistics published by the West German government 1956 put the death toll due to air raids at 635,000. [124] However, estimates from other sources tend to be lower, ranging from 305,000 to 500,000 persons killed by Allied bombing of German cities.

1956 West German government report Edit

The schedule below details the statistics published by the West German government 1956. They estimated 635,000 total deaths, 500,000 due to the strategic bombing of Germany and an additional 135,000 killed in air raids during the 1945 flight and evacuations on the eastern front. [125] The civilian deaths in the air raids on eastern Front after 1/31/1945 are also included with the figures of the losses during the Flight and expulsion of Germans (1944–50) [126]

  • Civilian bombing deaths (not including refugees) of 436,000 include 350,000 dead, 54,000 died of wounds and 32,000 missing and presumed dead.
  • Of the 350,000 civilians listed as dead (not including refugees), 126,000 of the deaths occurred after January 31, 1945.
  • Included in the total of 635,000 air raid dead were losses for Germany in 1937 borders which totaled 593,000. 465,000 not including refugees (410,000 civilians, 32,000 foreigners and POW and 23,000 military and Police) and losses of 128,000 refugees on eastern front (127,000 civilians and 1,000 military and Police)
  • The Austrian government puts their losses in the air war at 24,000. This figure is included in the schedule above.

Sources for figures in schedule:

(1) Hans Sperling, Die Luftkriegsverluste während des zweiten Weltkriegs in Deutschland, Wirtschaft und Statistik October 1956, journal published by Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland. (German government Statistical Office)

(2) Statistisches Jahrbuch für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1960, Page 78.

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey Edit

The United States Strategic Bombing Survey gave three different figures for German air raid deaths

1-The summary report of September 30, 1945 put total casualties for the entire period of the war at 305,000 killed and 780,000 wounded. [127]

2- The section Effects of Strategic Bombing on the German War Economy of October 31, 1945 put the losses at 375,000 killed and 625,000 wounded [128] [129]

3-The section The Effect of Bombing on Health and Medical Care in Germany of January 1947 made a preliminary calculated estimate of air raid dead at 422,000 [130] [129] According to the report "no complete and accurate figures on German civilian air raid casualties, covering the entire period of the war, are available". The authors maintain that the German figures for 1940 through 1943 of 111,000 killed was generally correct and that their estimate of 311,000 dead for the years 1944 and 1945 was based on the tons of bombs dropped and the population size of the cities bombed. Regarding overall losses they concluded that "It was further estimated that an additional number, approximately 25% of known deaths in 1944 and 1945, were still unrecovered and unrecorded. With an addition of this estimate of 1944 and 1945 unrecorded deaths, the final estimation gave in round numbers a half a million German civilians killed by Allied aerial attacks" [131]

Analysis by Richard Overy Edit

Historian Richard Overy in 2014 published a study of the air war The Bombers and the Bombed: Allied Air War Over Europe 1940-1945 in which he disputed the official German figures of air war dead. He estimated total air raid deaths at 353,000. The main points of Overy's analysis are as follows. [132]

  • Overy maintains that the German estimates are based on incorrect speculations for losses during the final months of the war when there was a gap in the record keeping system. He points out that the figures for air raid dead in the last three months of the war were estimated in the West German figures at 300,000, which includes the deaths of 135,000 eastern refugees fleeing westward, Overy believes that this is not plausible. The official German figures for the final months of the war include the inflated total of 60,000 deaths from the Bombing of Dresden – Overy notes that the latest research puts the Dresden death toll at approximately 25,000, less than half the West German estimate [132]
  • Overy based his analysis on data in German archival sources for the years 1940-1942 and the Civilian Defense Division report of United States Strategic Bombing Survey[133] for the period January 1943 to January 1945. These archival sources indicated a total of 271,188 air raid deaths from the beginning of the war until the end of January 1945. Overy noted that "No doubt this does not include all those who were killed or died of wounds, but it does include uniformed personnel, POWs, and foreign workers, and it applies to the Greater German area". Using the United States Strategic Bombing Survey data Overy calculated an average monthly death toll of 18,777 from September 1944 to January 1945, taking this monthly average he estimated losses of 57,000 from February to April 1945 to which he adds an additional 25,000 killed in Dresden for total deaths of 82,000 from February to April 1945. The figures up until the end of January 1945 of 271,000 and the 82,000 from February to April 1945 give an overall figure of 353,000 air war deaths. Overy summarizes: "Detailed reconstruction of deaths caused by the Royal Air Force bombing from February to May 1945, though incomplete, suggests a total of at least 57,000. If casualties inflicted by the American air forces are assumed to be lower, since their bombing was less clearly aimed at cities, an overall death toll of 82,000 is again statistically realistic. In the absence of unambiguous statistical evidence, the figure of 353,000 gives an approximate scale consistent with the evidence". [132]

Other estimates of air raid deaths Edit

  • A 2005 report by the German Red Cross put the death toll due to strategic bombing at 500,000. [134] : 17
  • A 1990 study by the East German historian de:Olaf Groehler estimated 360,000–370,000 civilians were killed by Allied strategic bombing within the 1937 German boundaries, for the German Reich including Austria, forced laborers, POW and military the total is estimated at 406,000. In 2005 Groehler's figures were published in the authoritative series The German Reich and the Second World War[135]
  • The estimate by West German government in November 1949 for Germany in 1937 borders was 450,000 killed in bombing and 50,000 in ground fighting. Figures do not include Austria. [122]
  • The British PM Clement Attlee in a statement to Parliament on 22 October 1945 put the German death toll in the bombing campaign at 350,000 [6]

Civilians killed in 1945 military campaign Edit

The West German government in made a rough estimate in 1956 of 20,000 civilians killed during the 1945 military campaign in current post war German borders, not including the former German territories in Poland. [9] However, there is a more recent estimate of 22,000 civilians killed during the fighting in Berlin only. [136] Not included in these figures are civilians who died in the fighting and atrocities in East-Prussia (Konigsberg, Pillau), Pommerania (Danzig, Kolberg) and Silesia (Breslau). The losses of civilians from East-Central Europe in the 1945 are included with the expulsion dead, the German Archives report of 1974 estimated 150,000 violent deaths of civilians in East-Central Europe during the 1945 military campaign. [137]

Deaths due to Nazi political, racial and religious persecution Edit

The West German government put the number of Germans killed by the Nazi political, racial and religious persecution at 300,000 (including 160,000 German Jews) [138]

A 2003 report by the German Federal Archive put the total murdered during the Action T4 Euthanasia program at over 200,000 persons. Previously it was reported that 70,000 persons were murdered in the euthanasia program, recent research in the archives of the former East Germany indicate that the number of victims in Germany and Austria was about 200,000. [18] [139]

NKVD special camps in East Germany 1945–1950 Edit

The Soviets set up NKVD special camps in the Soviet-occupied parts of Germany and areas east of the Oder-Neisse line to intern Germans accused of alleged ties to the Nazis, or because they were hindering the establishment of Stalinism in East Germany. Between 122,000 and 150,000 were detained and at least 43,000 did not survive. [140]

Expulsion of Germans after World War II and the forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union Edit

Civilian deaths, due to the flight and expulsion of Germans and the forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union, are sometimes included with World War II casualties. During the Cold War, the West German government estimated the death toll at 2.225 million [15] in the wartime evacuations, forced labor in the Soviet Union as well as the post war expulsions. This figure was to remain unchallenged until the 1990s when some German historians put the actual death toll in the expulsions at 500,000 confirmed deaths listed in a 1965 German Red Cross study. [14] [13] The German Historical Museum puts the figure at 600,000 dead they maintain the figure of 2 million expulsion deaths cannot be supported. [12] However, the position of the German government, the German Federal Agency for Civic Education and the German Red Cross is that the death toll in the expulsions is between 2.0 and 2.5 million civilians. [16] [134] : 17 The German historian Rüdiger Overmans maintains that there are more arguments for a lower figure of 500,000 rather than the higher figures of over 2.0 million. He believes that the previous studies by the German government should be subject to critical revision and new research is needed to establish the actual number of expulsion deaths. [141]

The following studies were published by the West German government estimating expulsion deaths.

  • In 1950 the West German government made a preliminary estimate of 3,000,000 German civilians missing in Eastern Europe (1.5 million from pre war Germany and 1.5 million ethnic Germans from East Europe) whose fate needed to be clarified. [142] This estimate was later superseded by the 1958 German Government demographic study.
  • The Schieder commission from 1953 to 1961 estimated 2.3 million civilian deaths in the expulsions- Germany in 1937 borders the Oder-Neisse region 2,167,000 (figure includes 500,000 military and 50,000 air raid dead) Poland (1939 borders) 217,000, Free City of Danzig 100,000 Czechoslovakia 225,600 Yugoslavia 69,000 Rumania 10,000 Hungary 6,000 [143] The statistical information in the Schieder Report was later superseded by the 1958 German Government demographic study.
  • The West German government statistical office issued a report in 1958 that put the number of civilians dead or missing in the expulsions and forced labor in the USSR at 2,225,000(including 1,339,000 for Germany in 1937 borders Poland 185,000, Danzig 83,200 Czechoslovakia 272,900 Yugoslavia 135,800 Rumania 101,000 Hungary 57,000 Baltic States 51,400. The figures include those killed in the 1945 military campaign and the forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union. [144] The figures from this report are often cited by historians writing in the English language. Rüdiger Overmans pointed out that these figures represent persons whose fate had not been clarified, not necessarily dead as a result of the expulsions. [145]
  • The West German government set up a unified body the Suchdienst (search service) of the German churches working in conjunction with the German Red Cross to trace the individual fates of those who were dead or missing as result of the expulsions and deportations. In 1965 the final report was issued by the search service which was able to confirm 473,013 civilian deaths in Eastern Europe and an additional 1,905,991 cases whose fate could not be determined. This report remained confidential until 1987. Rüdiger Overmans presented a summary of this data at a 1994 historical symposium in Poland. [145]
  • In 1974, the West German Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv) issued a report to "compile and evaluate information available in the Federal Archives and elsewhere regarding crimes and brutalities committed against Germans in the course of the expulsion". The report estimated 600,000 civilian deaths (150,000 violent Deaths during war in 1945 200,000 in Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union and 250,000 in post war internment Camps and forced labor in Eastern Europe) [137] In particular, the report identified deaths due to crimes against international law: the 1958 report of the Federal Office for Statistics listed as "post-war losses" two million people whose fate remained unaccounted for in the population balance, but who according to the 1974 report were "not exclusively victims of crimes against international law" such as post war deaths due to malnutrition and disease.

Recent research on German expulsion losses:

  • The Deutsches Historisches Museum puts the number of dead at 600,000, they maintain the official figure of 2 million cannot be supported. [12]
  • In his 2000 study of German military casualties Rüdiger Overmans found 344,000 additional military deaths of Germans from the Former eastern territories of Germany and conscripted ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe. Overmans believes this will reduce the number of civilians previously listed as missing in the expulsions. Overmans did not investigate civilian expulsion losses, only military casualties, he merely noted that other studies estimated of expulsion losses from about 500,000 to 2,000,000. Overmans maintains that there are more arguments for a lower figure of 500,000 rather than the higher figures of over 2.0 million. He believes new research on the number of expulsion deaths is needed since only 500,000 of the reported 2,000,00 deaths have been confirmed. [145][146]
  • The German historian Ingo Haar maintains that civilian losses in the expulsions have been overstated for decades by the German government for political reasons. Haar argues that during the Cold War the West German government put political pressure on the Statistisches Bundesamt to push the figures upward to agree to the Search Service combined total of 2.3 million dead and missing. Haar maintains that the Search Service figure of 1.9 million missing persons is based on unreliable information and that the actual death toll in the expulsions is between 500-600,000 which is based on confirmed deaths. [147][148][149]
  • The German historians Hans Henning Hahn and Eva Hahn have published a detailed study of the flight and expulsions that is sharply critical of official German accounts of the cold war era. The Hahn's believe that the official German figure of 2 million deaths is a historical myth that lacks foundation. The Hahn's point out that the figure of 473,013 confirmed deaths includes 80,522 in the post war period they maintain that most of the deaths occurred during the Nazi organized flight and evacuation during the war, and the Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union. They place the ultimate blame for the mass flight and expulsion on the wartime policy of the Nazis in Eastern Europe. [150]
  • In 2006 the German government reaffirmed its belief that 2.0 to 2.5 million civilians perished in the flight and expulsion from Eastern Europe. They maintain that the figure is correct because it includes additional deaths from malnutrition and disease of those civilians subject to the expulsions. State Secretary in the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, Christoph Bergner, outlined the stance of the respective governmental institutions in Deutschlandfunk saying that the numbers presented by the German government and others are not contradictory to the numbers cited by Haar, and that the below 600,000 estimate comprises the deaths directly caused by atrocities during the expulsion measures and thus only includes people who on the spot were raped, beaten, or else brought to death, while the above two millions estimate also includes people who on their way to post-war Germany have died of epidemics, hunger, cold, air raids and the like. [151]

Estimated total German population losses (in 1937 German borders) directly related to the war range between 5.5 [152] to 6.9 million persons. [153] These figures do not include ethnic Germans from other nations in the German military and ethnic German civilians who were killed in expulsions. In 1956 the West German government figures in the table below list an estimated about 5.5 million deaths (military and civilian) directly caused by the war within the borders of 1937. [154] A study by the German demographer Peter Marschalck put the total deaths directly related to the war both military and civilians at 5.2 million, plus an estimated decline in births of 1.7 million, bringing total population losses related to the war at 6.9 million persons within the borders of 1937. [153] There were additional deaths of the ethnic Germans outside of Germany in Eastern Europe, men conscripted during the war and ethnic German civilian deaths during post war expulsions

German government figures (2005) Edit

In 2005 the German government Suchdienste (Search Service) put the total combined German military and civilian war dead at 7,375,800, including ethnic Germans outside of Germany and Austrians. This figure includes 4.3 million military dead and missing, 500,000 killed by strategic bombing, 300,000 victims of Nazi political, racial and religious persecution, 2,251,500 civilian dead in expulsions and 24,300 Austrian civilians. [155] : 12

Population balance for Germany in 1937 borders (not including Austria or the ethnic Germans of East Europe): May 1939 to October 1946 Edit

According to West German Government 1956
Germany in 1937 borders Population Balance
Population May 1939 Census 69,310,000
Live Births 8,670,000
Net Immigration-German Refugees 4,080,000
Subtotal Additions 12,750,000
Civilians-Death by natural causes (7,130,000)
Civilians Killed in Air war (410,000)
Civilians Killed in 1945 Land Battles (20,000)
Military Dead (3,760,000)
POW held by Allies (1,750,000)
Germans remaining in Poland (1,750,000)
Germans Remaining Abroad (130,000)
Expulsion and Deportation Civilian Dead/Missing (1,260,000)
Emigrated & Murdered Jews (200,000)
Net Emigration of Foreign Population (200,000)
Other, Misc. (140,000)
Subtotal Reductions (16,750,000)
Population October 1946 Census 65,310,000
Sources for figures: Wirtschaft und Statistik October 1956, Journal published by Statistisches Bundesamt Deutschland. (German government Statistical Office)
  1. -Population May 1939 Census- These figures are for Germany in 1937 borders, they do not include Austria or the ethnic Germans of East Europe. [9]
  2. -Live Births- are those actually recorded from May 1939 until June 1944 and from January to October 1946. The gap in vital statistics between the middle of 1944 and the end of 1945 was estimated. [9]
  3. -Net Immigration-German Refugees were ethnic Germans of Eastern Europe who lived outside Germany in 1937 borders before the war. [9]
  4. -Civilian Deaths- These are deaths due to natural causes not directly related to the war. Figure includes deaths actually recorded from May 1939 until June 1944 and from January to October 1946. The gap in vital statistics between the middle of 1944 and the end of 1945 was estimated. [9] The German government Statistical Office figures in the above table put the deaths due to natural causes at 7,130,000. A study by the German demographer Peter Marschalck estimated the expected deaths from natural causes based on the peacetime death rate would have been 5,900,000. [156] The German economist de:Bruno Gleitze from the German Institute for Economic Research estimated that included in the total of 7.1 million deaths by natural causes that there were 1,2 million excess deaths caused by an increase in mortality due to the harsh conditions in Germany during and after the war [157] In Allied occupied Germany the shortage of food was an acute problem in 1946–47 the average kilocalorie intake per day was only 1,600 to 1,800, an amount insufficient for long-term health., [158]
  5. -Killed in Air war - Figure for civilians only, does not include 23,000 police and military and 32,000 POW and foreign workers. [9]
  6. -Killed in 1945 Land Battles- This is a rough estimate made in 1956 for Germany in current post war borders, not including the former German territories in post war Poland. [9] However, there is a more recent estimate of 22,000 civilians killed during the fighting in Berlin only. [136]
  7. -Military Dead - Includes Wehrmacht as well as SS/police and paramilitary forces. The Statistisches Bundesamt put the total at 3,760,000. [9] The Overmans study of German military casualties put the total at about 4.4 million. [159]
  8. -POW still held by Allies- 1,750,000 POW from Germany within in the 1937 borders were still held by the allies in October 1946. [9] Total German POW held at that time were about 2.5 million, including 300,000 men from other nations conscripted by Nazi Germany not included in the 1939 population [160] and 384,000 POW held in Germany who are included in the 1946 census figures. By 1950 almost all POW had been released except for 29,000 men held in forced labor in the USSR or convicted as war criminals.
  9. -Germans remaining in Poland in October 1946 were 1,750,000, but by 1950 the number had been reduced to 1,100,000 because of expulsions after October 1946. Those remaining in 1950 became Polish citizens but were German nationals in 1939. [9]
  10. -Germans Remaining Abroad-Includes expelled Germans who had emigrated to other countries or were in Denmark. [9]
  11. -Expulsion and Deportation Dead - This estimate is only for the Oder-Neisse region of Germany in the 1937 borders, not including the ethnic Germans of other Eastern European nations. Figure includes civilian deaths in the 1945 military campaign, the forced labor in the USSR as well as excess deaths due to post war famine and disease. [9] The German Church Service put the total of confirmed expulsion dead at about 300,000 for Germany in the 1937 borders, the balance of 960,000 were reported as missing and whose fate had not been clarified. [147]
  12. -Emigrated & Murdered Jews- The Statistisches Bundesamt (German government Statistical Office) gave a total of 200,000 Jews who had emigrated or were murdered, they did not estimate those actually who were murdered. [9] Most sources outside of Germany put the Holocaust death toll in Germany at about 150,000 Jews.
  13. -Net Emigration of Foreign Population - The Statistisches Bundesamt pointed out that this was a rough estimate. [9]
  14. -Other, Misc. - The Statistisches Bundesamt defined the others as "emigrated Germans, POW remaining abroad voluntarily, and German concentration camp deaths" (deutsche KZ-Opfer). [9]
  15. -Population October 1946 Census- Figure of 65,310,000 does not include 693,000 displaced persons (DPs) living in Germany. Figure includes 853,000 in the Saarland. [161]

Population balance for Austria Edit

The Austrian government provides the following information on human losses during the rule of the Nazis.

For Austria the consequences of the Nazi regime and the Second World War were disastrous: During this period 2,700 Austrians had been executed and more than 16,000 citizens murdered in the concentration camps. Some 16,000 Austrians were killed in prison, while over 67,000 Austrian Jews were deported to death camps, only 2,000 of them lived to see the end of the war. In addition, 247,000 Austrians lost their lives serving in the army of the Third Reich or were reported missing, and 24,000 civilians were killed during bombing raids. [162]

Population balance for the ethnic Germans of Eastern Europe Edit

In 1958 the West German government statistical office put the losses of the ethnic Germans at 1,318,000 (886,000 civilians in the expulsions and 411,000 in the German military and 22,000 in the Hungarian and Romanian military) [163] The research of Rüdiger Overmans puts military losses of ethnic Germans at 534,000 [164] Ingo Haar points out that of the 886,000 estimated civilian dead from east Europe only about 170,000 deaths have been confirmed the balance are considered unsolved cases. [147]

In post-war Germany the fate of civilians and prisoners of war has been a contentious topic. The current view of the German government is that these losses were due to an aggressive war started by the German nation. [165] However, there are fringe groups who attempt to trivialize the crimes of the Hitler period by comparing German losses to the Holocaust.

The bombing of Dresden and the bombing campaign in general has been a topic of ultra-right propaganda in post-war Germany. [ citation needed ] Amongst others, the German historian Wolfgang Benz believes that the use of the term "Bombing Holocaust" runs contrary to historical fact. [166] The German government currently places the ultimate blame for the mass flight and expulsion on the wartime policy of the Nazis in Eastern Europe. [165] There are those like Heinz Nawratil who try to equate the expulsions from Eastern Europe with the Holocaust. The German historian Martin Broszat (former head of Institute of Contemporary History in Munich) described Nawratil's writings as "polemics with a nationalist-rightist point of view", and that Nawratil "exaggerates in an absurd manner the scale of 'expulsion crimes'". [167] The Federation of Expellees has represented the interests of Germans from Eastern Europe. Erika Steinbach, the current President of the Federation, provoked outrage when she supported the statements of other members of the expellee organization claiming that Hitler's attack on Poland was a response to Poland's policy. [168] The Federation of Expellees initiated the formation of the Center Against Expulsions. [169] The former President of Germany Joachim Gauck and the German chancellor Angela Merkel have voiced support for the Center Against Expulsions. However, in Poland it is viewed by some as an attempt to reopen the wounds of the war and to revert to pre-war borders. [ citation needed ]

The fate of over one million missing German soldiers in the USSR was an issue in post-war West Germany, with some claiming that they were held in secret labor camps by the Soviets. It is now known that they did not survive the war, Rüdiger Overmans believes that more than likely they died in Soviet custody. [170]

James Bacque, a Canadian author with no previous historical research experience, has written a book Other Losses in which he claims that the United States are responsible for the deaths of 800,000 to 1,000,000 German POW. Based on his own research Bacque claims that documents from the US Archives show that there were 800,000 German POW who did not survive US captivity. Bacque alleges that General Eisenhower and the US military deliberately withheld support for the German POW, causing their deaths. Bacque presents his arguments with a description of the horrific conditions at the Rheinwiesenlager POW camps and eyewitness accounts of retired US military officers. Bacque maintains that there has been a conspiracy by the United States to cover up these losses. Bacque’s book received wide attention when it was first published in 1989, since then his claims have been challenged by historians who have found his thesis to be unsubstantiated. The US military historian Stephen Ambrose was co-editor of the book Eisenhower and the German POWs in which he refutes Bacque’s claims. Ambrose maintains that the figure of 800,000 POW missing from the US records was a bookkeeping error, that many POW were released and no records were maintained. Ambrose points out that the US and the UK had to cope with a major logistical problem in order to maintain the huge number of surrendered German personnel and finds the claim that Eisenhower and the US military deliberately withheld support for the German POW to be without merit. [171] Rüdiger Overmans believes that "on the basis of factual individual data, shown before, the thesis of the Canadian James Bacque cannot be supported". [74]

A humanitarian organisation, known as (German: Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge, lit. 'German War Graves Commission'), is directed by the Federal Republic of Germany to record all the German fallen soldiers and maintain their graveyards abroad in 46 countries. The organisation was founded on 16 December 1919 to look after the World War I soldiers' graves. Later on, it commenced to track German casualties again starting from 1946 after the World War II. Currently, the commission runs an online database in which soldiers' family can search for the missing relatives. [172]

Estimates indicate that at least 40,000 war casualties are found a year. The commission has already built more than 300 cemeteries from World War II and 190 from World War I all over Europe. [173]


When the Nazis Invaded the Hamptons

Edward John Kerling and George John Dasch, two of the eight Nazi saboteurs captured by the FBI.

(Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The night was especially dark as U.S. Coast Guard seaman John Cullen patrolled the sand dunes of Amagansett, New York, shortly after midnight on June 13, 1942. Regulations in effect after the United States entered World War II six months earlier had already imposed blackouts on the village nestled in the Hamptons, and the thick fog that blanketed the east end of Long Island made it even more difficult for Cullen to see.

The 21-year-old “sand pounder” listened to the Atlantic Ocean lap up on the shore when the figures of four suspicious men suddenly crystallized in the fog. Of course, any men on the beach in violation of the nighttime curfew were by definition suspicious, but something was particularly odd about these men who claimed to be local fishermen who had run aground.

Mugshots of saboteurs George John Dasch, Geinrich Harm Heinck and Richard Quirin.

(Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The group’s leader, who gave his name as George John Davis, didn’t seem dressed for the part in his fedora, red zippered sweater and tennis shoes. The self-proclaimed fisherman then refused to return to the nearby Coast Guard station with Cullen. Perhaps realizing that there was nothing more he could possibly do to arouse suspicion, the ringleader blurted, “Look, I wouldn’t want to kill you. You don’t know what this is all about.” The faux fisherman pulled out a wad of bills from a tobacco pouch lodged in a pocket of his wet pants and said, 𠇏orget about this, and I will give you some money and you can have a good time.”

Cullen heard one of the men speaking in a foreign language before $260 was shoved in his hands. Unarmed and outnumbered, Cullen used his discretion and began to return to the Coast Guard station a half-mile away. Once out of eyeshot in the fog, his gait quickly sped up into a sprint.

Cullen burst into the station, awoke his colleagues and pronounced, “There are Germans on the beach!” The Coast Guardsman had indeed encountered four Nazis, but he wasn’t aware that they had just come ashore in a rubber boat laden with explosives, cash and intentions of sabotage.

Mugshots of saboteurs Werner Thiel Ernest Peter Burger and Hermann Neubauer.

(Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

Even before the United States entered World War II, German military intelligence had developed a plan codenamed Operation Pastorius— in honor of Franz Daniel Pastorius, who in 1683 had launched the first permanent German-American settlement in Germantown, Pennsylvania, now part of Philadelphia—to secretly infiltrate the East Coast and sabotage American war efforts. Walter Kappe, a German army lieutenant who had spent several years in the United States, recruited the saboteurs, all of whom spoke fluent English and had lived in the United States for a time.

The recruits attended a “sabotage camp” at an estate outside Berlin where they learned to make bombs, incendiary devices and even timers constructed from “just dried peas, lumps of sugar and razor blades,” according to a report by British intelligence agency MI5. They visited factories and transportation facilities to learn about infrastructure vulnerabilities.

FBI “Wanted” poster for Nazi saboteur Walter Kappe.

(Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images)

The saboteurs were tasked with disseminating anti-war propaganda and destroying American bridges, railroads, waterworks, factories, reservoirs and power plants. According to MI5, they were also “instructed to carry out small acts of terrorism such as the placing of incendiary bombs in suitcases left in luggage depots and in Jewish-owned shops.” However, they were told to avoid causing deaths or injuries 𠇊s this would not benefit Germany.”

The first cell of four Nazi saboteurs departed a German submarine base at Lorient, France on May 26, 1942. The next four-man group left two days later. The saboteurs were given $175,200 in United States currency sewn into the lining of duffel bags, enough to finance two years of operations, as well as handkerchiefs with the names of Nazi sympathizers in America written in invisible ink.

Operation Pastorius experienced a rocky start when the U-boat carrying the saboteurs to Amagansett ran aground on a sandbar 100 yards off the Long Island coast. Unnerved by their unexpected encounter with Cullen, the saboteur cell led by 39-year-old George John Dasch, the Nazi who had given the alias of George John Davis to Cullen, hastily changed into shabby fishermen’s clothing hidden in duffel bags, buried its equipment in the sand for retrieval later and disappeared into the scrub beyond the beach.

Coast Guard officer John C. Cullen receives the congratulations of Rear Admiral Stanley V. Parker in recognition of his service.


How Soviet troops taunted the Nazis during their final drive to Berlin in World War II

The violence of the final weeks of World War II on Europe's Eastern Front was matched only by its chaos, as the exhausted and outnumbered Germans withered under attacks from well-equipped and highly motivated Soviet troops.

The front line became more fluid, with Soviet forces quickly enveloping Nazi units that then made shambolic retreats and launched desperate breakout attempts.

At times, Soviet forces arrived at vacated German positions so quickly that the Russians found opportunities to taunt their reeling enemies.

The Soviet race to Berlin began on April 15 from positions east of the city, and by the morning of April 21, 1945, staff officers at the German army and armed forces joint headquarters at Zossen, south of Berlin, were girding themselves for capture after Hitler denied a request for them to relocate away from the Soviet advance.

But Soviet tanks ran out of gas south of the headquarters, and the delay allowed Hitler's staff to reconsider, ordering the headquarters to move to Potsdam, southwest of Berlin. The officers at Zossen got the order just in time.

"Late that afternoon, Soviet soldiers entered the concealed camp at Zossen with caution and amazement," historian Antony Beevor writes in his 2002 book, "The Fall of Berlin 1945."

Just four German defenders were left. Three surrendered immediately. The fourth was too drunk to do anything.

"It was not the mass of papers blowing about inside the low, zigzag-painted concrete buildings which surprised [the Soviets], but the resident caretaker's guided tour," according to Beevor. The tour, he writes, took the Soviet troops down among the two headquarters' maze of bunkers, filled with generators, maps, and telephones.

"Its chief wonder was the telephone exchange, which had linked the two supreme headquarters with Wehrmacht units," Beevor writes.

"A telephone suddenly rang. One of the Russian soldiers answered it. The caller was evidently a senior German officer asking what was happening," Beevor writes. "'Ivan is here,' the soldier replied in Russian, and told him to go to hell."

Soviets troops found other ways to taunt the Germans using their own phone lines.

A few days later, as Russian armies advanced to the outskirts of Berlin, the senior officers in the Fuhrer bunker, which didn't have proper signaling equipment, were increasingly in the dark about troop movements. In order to supply Hitler with up-to-date information, they had to turn to Berlin's residents.

"They rang civilian apartments around the periphery of the city whose numbers they found in the Berlin directory," Beevor writes. "If the inhabitants answered, they asked if they had seen any sign of advancing troops. And if a Russian voice replied, usually with a string of exuberant swearwords, then the conclusion was self-evident."

In the final days of April 1945, Berliners started calling their city the "Reich's funeral pyre," and Soviet troops were calling them to rub their looming victory in to their nearly vanquished enemy.

"Red Army soldiers decided to use the telephone network, but for amusement rather than information," Beevor writes. "While searching apartments, they would often stop to ring numbers in Berlin at random. Whenever a German voice answered, they would announce their presence in unmistakable Russian tones."

The calls "surprised the Berliners immensely," wrote a Soviet political officer.

Amid those taunts, the battle for Berlin and the fighting that preceded it left widespread destruction and death.

The battle began with one of the most powerful artillery barrages in human history, and by the time it was over on May 2, about 100,000 German troops — many of them old men and children — and more than 100,000 German civilians had been killed. Germany surrendered unconditionally on May 7 and 8.

Soviet forces lost about 70,000 troops in the fight for the city. Many of their deaths were caused by the haste of the Soviet operation, which was driven by commanders' desire to impress and please Stalin and by Stalin's own desire to seize Nazi nuclear research.


RELATED ARTICLES

For Herrig, that day would finally come at dawn on June 6, 1944, when - after a 24-hour delay because of bad weather - Operation Overlord was launched.

Heinrich Runder, a German soldier, recalled his feeling on seeing the invading forces as being one of 'pure fear'. He said: 'A vast number of ships. Absolutely vast.

'I can tell you that my throat went dry, painfully dry, and my hands began to shake. I wasn't the only man to be affected that way, one of the very young lads began to retch as if he was going to be sick.'

The Allied beach landings were accompanied by a fierce bombardment from ships offshore, along with bombing runs by aircraft that were designed to knock out German machine-gun nests and artillery emplacements.

Grenadier Heinrich Runder described it. 'I could feel the blasts which made my ears ring and my nose bleed,' he said.

'I could see the large bunker behind us…One of the rockets struck it, and simply blew the bunker to pieces. The walls and roof all flew apart.'

A Nazi tank blown upside down by Allied bombing. Two Nazis soldiers recalled the horrors of incendiary rockets fired by American Thunderbolt aircraft which were filled with petrol and tar to ensure the liquid stuck to the target as it burned. One man described a direct hit on a bunker as 'a vision of hell'

Despite Nazi propaganda painting Hitler's army as invincible (left), those stationed at Normandy said that many of them realised they would be defeated when the Allies invaded, even if they didn't know exactly when that would be. Right, a French newspaper announces the Allied victory

While some parts of the Nazi army were the most advanced in the world at the time, those stationed in Normandy on D-Day consisted either of teenage recruits with little training or foreign conscripts. One German soldier recalled seeing a platoon of Poles shoot their German commander rather than fight the Allies

German propaganda showing one of the defensive guns at Normandy which were the target of Allied shelling and bombing in order to disable them before the landings took place

Others recalled a particular horror - that of American incendiary rockets fired by Thunderbolts aircraft - that were filled with flammable liquid mixed tar or rubber to ensure it stuck to its target as it burned.

Runder recalled the moment one struck his trench as 'complete hell and chaos', describing men running around on fire, or falling backwards into the flames to die.

Another soldier described a direct hit by one of the rockets on a bunker as 'a vision of hell, an obscene sight that remains with me even now.'

While some German emplacements took heavy hits early in the fighting, those on Omaha beach - where US forces suffered most of their casualties - remained largely intact, spelling doom for many of the troops coming ashore.

Staff sergeant Henrik Naube, holed up in a machine-gun nest overlooking the beach, recalled: 'The Americans were about four hundred metres away from us.

'I did not sight on them individually at first, but I began firing and swept the gun from left to right along the beach. This knocked down the first few men in each line the MG 42 was so powerful that the bullets would often pass through a human body and hit whatever was behind it.

'So many of these men were hit by a bullet which had already passed through a man in front, or even two men.

'The only time we stopped firing was when the gun barrel began to overheat, and the mechanism showed signs of misfiring. We didn’t want to run the risk of the gun breaking down, so we rested it to let it cool. We took up our rifles and used them instead.'

Karl Wegner found himself in a similar position. Describing his emotions as waves of men were cut down, he added: 'My mind rationalised it this was war. Even so it left a sour taste in my mouth.

'But now was not the time to think of right or wrong, only survival… After the first few moments had passed my mind became automated. When the gun jammed I would clear it quickly because every second counted…

'When I pulled back the bolt for what seemed to be the thousandth time, I paused for a good look down the beach. I saw Amis [slang for American soldiers] lying everywhere.

'Some were dead, and others quite alive… What I saw convinced me that, for the moment, it was worse down there than it was for us where we were, although we had taken – and were still getting – a pounding.'

While some German soldiers managed to last through the morning of the assault, by midday they were running out of ammunition and overwhelmed by the scale of the Allied assault. As troops managed to find routes out of the beach killing zones and into the dunes, the Germans had little choice but to surrender

Nazi commander Karl-Wilhelm von Schlieben surrenders to the Americans. More than one Nazi soldier who defended the beaches said they were surprised at being taken alive, and had expected the Americans to shoot them on sight after so many of them had been gunned down on the sand

American troops come ashore at Utah beach, where a fierce Allied bombardment coupled with a tank assault ensured the German defences were breached within a couple of hours

The Allies failed to capture any of their major objectives on the first day of fighting, but gained a toe-hold in Europe from which they were able to drive the Nazis back to Berlin, where they were crushed by Russian forces. Up to 10,000 Allied men are thought to have died on D-Day, while up to 9,000 Germans perished

Despite some successes at Omaha, it quickly became apparent that the German troops - largely inexperienced, under-equipped, and poorly commanded (Erwin Rommel was in Paris with Hitler that day) - were going to lose.

Ammunition was becoming scarce, especially in the machine-gun nests, and a counter-attack that would have brought reinforcements had either stalled or been repulsed.

As the defenders were picked off, Stefan Heinevez, 20, recalled seeing the man next to him hit through the throat with a bullet before getting another in the chest, saying: 'He was literally shot to pieces in front of me.'

A few moments later, an Allied aircraft strafed his position and cut a Russian solider - conscripted into the German army after Hitler attacked Stalin's forces - in half.

'The rest of us could only step over the two pieces as we ran on,' he said.

Realising the day was lost, some conscripts refused to go down with the ship. One grenadier, Helmuth, recalled how Poles and Alsatians in his trench told the German commander surrender when the Americans attacked.

Refusing to surrender, the officer told them they would be shot if they refused to fight, prompting one of the men to put a bullet in his head. Helmuth, as the only German left in the trench, was beaten up and sent running.

Joseph Häger recalled fighting in a trench near Omaha for an hour - 'the most terrible time in my life' - before ending up in a bunker along with 30 wounded men as the Americans advanced.

With the Nazis troops trapped, the Allies began piling earth up against the vents before bringing up a flamethrower. Häger describes a near-mutiny before one of the men snatched a white blanket from a wounded man, tied it to a stick, and waved it in surrender.

Meanwhile Naube, knocked nearly-unconscious by a mortar round, found himself captured by the Americans - much to his surprise, as he expected to be shot on sight.

'When I thought about the beach, the piles of bodies down there… I thought the enemy would kill us,' he said.

'Would we have shown them any mercy if the roles were reversed, if we were the attackers?’

It is thought up to 9,000 German troops died on D-Day compared with 10,000 Allied soldiers - though only 4,400 have been officially accounted for - in what was the largest amphibious assault ever mounted.

The Allies achieved none of their key objectives on the first day of fighting, but German defenders had failed to 'throw them back into the sea', as Rommel had promised to do.

With a toe-hold in mainland Europe, the Allies were able to work their way inland, driving the Nazis all the way back to Berlin, where Hitler's forces were ultimately crushed by the Russians.


Nazi Germany Surrenders: February 1945-May 1945

On the afternoon of April 12, 1945, nearing the end of World War II, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt collapsed and died from a cerebral hemorrhage. Vice President Harry Truman was catapulted from relative obscurity to a world stage in which the United States had to oversee the final defeat of Nazi Germany and Japan and play a key part in the reconstruction of the postwar order.

Adolf Hitler interpreted Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death as a miracle of deliverance. Locked away in his bunker in Berlin, the German leader played out grotesque fantasies of a final victory in which his enemies became divided and hostile -- or tired of the terrible cost of subduing the German people. Adolf Hitler no longer saw the reality of his battered country. The heaviest bombing of the war reduced German cities to ruins one after the other -- most notoriously the city of Dresden. From February 13 to February 15, 30,000 people were killed there in Allied bombing. Nazi Germany could not sustain war production. In both west and east, German forces fought on fatalistically against hopeless odds.

By February 9, American troops had breached the Siegfried Line in western Germany, and by March 5 they had reached the Rhine River at Cologne. The Germans mounted little resistance, with only 26 poorly armed divisions. Meanwhile, 214 divisions tried to hold back the Red Army in eastern Germany. By May 4, the German forces in northern Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark surrendered to Montgomery's British Commonwealth armies. Farther south, General Eisenhower swung the American advance away from the Rhine-Berlin axis toward southern Germany, where he feared the German army might make a final stand in a mountainous redoubt. Americans entered Austria in early May, by which time Axis forces in Italy had also surrendered. On April 28, Benito Mussolini was captured by Italian partisans and killed.

World War II Image Gallery

Adolf Hitler survived him by just two days. Since January 1945, the Soviets had pushed relentlessly toward Berlin and Vienna. By February, a succession of rolling offensives brought the Red Army within striking distance of both capitals. In the south, Budapest was occupied by February 11 and the last Germans were driven out of Hungary by early April. Farther north, Zhukov's armies reached the Oder River by February 2, but for the next month fierce pockets of German resistance held up progress toward Berlin.

The plan for the final assault was approved by Joseph Stalin in early April, and a huge semicircle of Soviet Union forces was launched at Adolf Hitler's capital on April 16. The final battle cost both sides exceptional casualties, but Soviet Union progress was remorseless. Ten days after the start of the battle, the forces of General Chuikov -- defender of Stalingrad two years prior -- reached the center of Berlin. When on April 30 Adolf Hitler was told that there was no prospect of further defense, he said goodbye to his staff and commanders, retired to his bunker living room with Eva Braun -- the mistress he had finally consented to marry the day before -- and there poisoned and shot himself while she took poison. The bodies were incinerated in the garden of the Reich chancellery, where Soviet Union soldiers found charred remains a few days later.

Adolf Hitler's suicide heralded the end. On­ May 2, the battered remnants of the Berlin garrison surrendered. On May 7, Adolf Hitler's chief of operations, Alfred Jodl, signed the act of unconditional surrender in the early hours of the morning in Reims, France. The Soviet Union side wanted a more elaborate and symbolic ceremony, and a second surrender was staged in Berlin the following day. Though Victory in Europe (V-E) Day was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic on May 8, German forces fighting a desperate last stand around Prague refused to give up until May 12.

In the Pacific, the U.S. planned its assault on Iwo Jima the previous October, when it became clear that the islands close to the Japanese homeland would make important staging posts for the eventual invasion. Both Iwo Jima and Okinawa were to be attacked and cleared as a preliminary step. On both islands, large Japanese garrisons -- positioned in caves and foxholes -- were ordered to resist to the last man. After a heavy bombardment, four U.S. divisions landed on Iwo Jima on February 19. Four weeks of savage fighting brought exceptionally high American losses, but almost the entire Japanese garrison, more than 20,000 men, was wiped out.

On April 1, 1945, a similar landing was undertaken on Okinawa. After the U.S. established secure lodgements ashore, another bitter struggle followed to clear the island. The U.S. naval task force was attacked for weeks by kamikaze suicide planes, which sank more than 30 ships. Some 12,500 U.S. servicemen were killed, but so were 110,000 Japanese. Resistance on Okinawa did not end until June 21. The intense combat indicated just how difficult a final battle for the home islands of Japan might prove to be.

Before the capture of Iwo Jima, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt met in conference together for the last time. In the Crimean city of Yalta, from February 4 to February 11, Joseph Stalin repeated his earlier agreement that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan once Nazi Germany was defeated. In exchange, he was promised the Kurile Islands and the return of the Japanese half of Sakhalin Island. Agreement was also reached on creating a new Polish state.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in poor health, was also determined to lay the foundation for a postwar world order in which the Soviet Union could participate. The result was a conference in San Francisco, California, that began on April 25, 1945. Participants laid the foundations for the United Nations organization, whose founding charter was signed on June 26. By that time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt -- whose vision the organization largely reflected -- was dead.

Among the Western Allies, well more than a million people died during the war. The Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million, Poland six million, and Nazi Germany more than five million. "What a terrible war," Joseph Stalin told Zhukov. "How many lives of our people it has carried away. There are probably very few families left who have not lost someone near to them. "

Continue to the next page for a detailed timeline on the important World War II events that occurred during the first two weeks of February 1945.

To follow more major events of World War II, see:

Some of the dramatic changes brought by World War II only became clear in hindsight. These articles explore the aftermath of the 20th century's most violent decade:


How many Wehrmacht soldiers surrendered from January to April 1945?

Human nature. No one, outside the mentally ill or the suicidal, wants to die.

Most Germans, with the exception of some the more delusional of hardcore Nazis, also knew that the war was lost by 1945. A great many people in the German military were just hoping to survive until the end of it, and weren't too keen on being killed in what had obviously become a lost cause.

RoyalHill1987

In Spring 1945, the Soviets held 2 million German POWs, while the western Allies held 7.5 million. So the grand total was about 9.5 million - a figure that includes all Wehrmacht soldiers (at least, those still alive) who had surrendered since the start of the war.

They knew it was over. Resistance was useless. Everyone knew how many were dying at the front. Every family in Germany had lost someone. They had seen their cities pounded into rubble by allied bombing raids. They could see Soviet tanks on the streets of Berlin. In many cases, they simply ran out of ammunition due to being surrounded and besieged.

In the film downfall, based on Traudl Junges' diaries, the Fuhrer was informed that the Soviets are now less than 500 metres from the bunker, and that the defenders will exhaust their ammunition during the night.

There was no hope. It was useless. Many just wanted the nightmare to be over. Surrender to the western Allies offered that possibility. Some were captured by the Soviets because they had no other choice.

As far as I know, the final weeks of the war were all about retreating west to get into American and British protection. Getting caught by the Red Army was regarded as a much more horrifying fate and as things turned out those fears were entirely justified. (Though it has to be said that the German troops had set the level of savagery in the east years earlier and the soviet troops were giving back just as badly as they had recieved. Might not have been nearly as bad if the German had not set the expectations for a war of annihilation.) It's estimated that over a million German soldiers died in Soviet prison camps. And that is, if they were taken alive at all.

I know there were some units that insisted to go down fighting against the Americans, but I wonder how much fighting there really was on the western front after mid-April. The reason the new German leadership did not surrender until the western and eastern allies met in the middle was not out of delusional hope that they could hold their territory, but to get as many people as possible out of the areas that would be the Soviet Occupied zone.

Spartacuss

Quite so. The fleeing to the west had been taking place for a few months before Germany surrendered. Slowly at first, then a flood in the last weeks. Those fleeing would have more of an impact on Germany's surrender than most realize.

You asked about the level of fighting on the Western Front in April, 1945. Table 8 of my referenced source gives the US Army casualties month by month from June, 1944 to May, 1945. I think the numbers for April and May, 1945 will surprise you. Tables for the UK and French casualties are also listed. Many German units put up significant resistance in those last days with some really diehard outfits fighting well into June and July. This, coupled with what has been called wholesale surrenders, presents just how chaotic the situation was.

From the time the Ruhr was taken, allied losses taken each day that Germany did not surrender enraged Eisenhower. He kept this rage under control outwardly, but with his staff it let it fly privately and much of what became his policy for what to do after the surrender was a manifestation. Compared to US treatment of enemy prisoners of war overall during the war, his treatment of prisoners in Europe after the surrender was very harsh.


The Black Day Nazi Germany Attacked Greece in WWII

German artillery shelling Greek defenses. Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-163-0319-07A / Bauer / CC BY-SA 3.0 de

It was April 6, 1941 when armed forces from Germany launched a massive attack on Greece’s northern border after the Italian army had earlier failed miserably in its attempt to invade Greece.

Adolf Hitler’s original plan was to send his Italian allies to take over the “little country” in the Mediterranean so that he could gather his troops to prepare for the ambitious campaign to attack Russia in the spring.

The Italians tried to enter Greece without a fight on October 28, 1940, but they received a resounding “OXI” from Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas.

The Italians subsequently attacked from the Albanian border, but the outnumbered Greek Army not only managed to defend the country, but pushed the attacking forces further back to Albania and occupied more territory, dealing a powerful blow to the Italian forces.

In the spring of 1941, the German war machine was preparing for a fierce attack against Russia.

Germany underestimated Greece

In the eyes of the Nazi generals, Greece was a minor detail which needed to be sorted out before the Russian campaign.

Little did they know about the Greek fighting spirit, which was soaring high after the victorious war on the Albanian front.

“Operation Marita” – as Germany called the attack on Greece – brought the Nazi forces to the Bulgarian border. They included entire Panzer divisions which were meant to move north to Russia soon afterward.

Meanwhile, Greece had asked for Britain’s help to stop the Germans. The kingdom sent 62,000 Commonwealth troops, who were put into position along the Haliacmon Line while the Greeks chose to occupy the well-fortified Metaxas Line.

However, the Greek First Army remained on the Albanian front, in case the Italians might see their removal from Albania as a sign of weakness.

The Metaxas Line on the Greek-Bulgarian border

On April 6, Field Marshal Wilhelm List led the German army to attack and the Battle of Greece began.

The Germans first hit Prilep with Panzer tanks, accompanied by bombing from the Luftwaffe, and cut the area off from the rest of the country. Then they moved to Monastir, with a plan to attack Florina on April 9.

This move was a major threat to the British flank and could have easily cut off the Greek troops in Albania. In the east, the Germans attacked Yugoslavia and made their advance through the Strimon Valley. To make matters worse, the northeastern region was weakened by a lack of sufficient numbers of troops.

Fort Roupel: The first line of Greece’s defense

Germany advanced quickly through Yugoslavia and headed toward Greece’s Thessaloniki, defeating Greek troops at Doiran Lake. They captured the city by April 9.

However, the Greek armed forces managed to inflict serious damage to the advancing Nazis from their strongly fortified locations in the mountains.

Fort Roupel – which was incorporated into the Metaxas Line – held out against the German attack and was only abandoned by its men after the surrender of the Greek army in Thessaloniki.

The valor of the outnumbered Greek soldiers who fought there was later praised by even the German generals.

When the Germans had successfully cut them off from the rest of the country, the Greek Second Army surrendered to the attackers on April 9. After their surrender, any real resistance on the east side of the Axios River ceased.

Fort Roupel

Continuing their advance, the Germans made a push for Monastir Gap, where they attacked on April 10. With no resistance from the Yugoslavs in the gap, they decided that it would be a good opportunity to attack the British near Vevi.

Once at Servia and the Olympus pass, the Germans were halted by the British. The British forces there had orders to hold Pineios Gorge at all costs until other British troops had a chance to move to the south.

At this point, the Greek First Army found itself cut off in Albania by the German forces. Instead of surrendering to the Italians, their commander decided to surrender to the Germans on April 20. The next day it was decided that the British would withdraw to Crete and Egypt.

Germany invades Athens

The Commonwealth troops were attacked on April 24, but they managed to hold their position for that entire day until they were pushed back. On April 27, German troops managed to bypass the flank and they entered Athens.

After Germany conquered Athens, the battle of mainland Greece was over for all intents and purposes. The Allies evacuated, and during the evacuations the German troops managed to capture seven to eight thousand of their soldiers.

At the end of the evacuation the British had escaped with a total of some 50,000 men.

The Battle of Crete started on May 20, with Commonwealth troops and the Greek Army resisting the German parachutists in the first primarily airborne invasion in military history. By June 1, the Germans had conquered Crete, albeit after suffering a tremendous number of casualties.

German tanks entering the city of Athens

The aftermath of the Battle of Greece

Over 13,300 Greek soldiers were killed during the Battle of Greece, another 62,660 were wounded and 1,290 went missing.

In defending Greece against Germany, the British lost 903 soldiers, with another 1,250 wounded and an astounding 13,900 captured.

After the Nazis had captured Greece, it was decided to split the nation up between Germany, Italy and Bulgaria. The Axis stopped their campaign in the Balkans when they captured Crete.

These victories, however, would come at a heavy price for the Germans. Because of the Battle of Greece and the other battles in the Balkans, the invasion of the Soviet Union had to be delayed. This meant that the German troops would probably end up fighting not only the Soviet Army but the brutal Russian winter as well.

Praise of Greek bravery

By any measure, Greece’s resistance to the Axis forces had been remarkable. From the time of the first Italian attack on October 28, 1940 until June 1, 1941 when Crete fell, it took a total 216 days to conquer Greece militarily.

The much larger and militarily powerful nation of France fell to Germany in only forty-three days, while Norway resisted for a total of sixty-one days. Poland put up fierce resistance for thirty days, Belgium eighteen, and Holland fell in only five days.

The nations of Denmark and Czechoslovakia, in contrast, surrendered without firing a shot against Germany.

Nazi soldiers at Fort Roupel

The protagonists of World War II, both Allies and enemies, spoke highly of the valor shown by Greece in defending against Germany.

Russian leader Joseph Stalin, in an open letter read on Radio Moscow during the war, said “the Russian people will always be grateful to the Greeks for delaying the German army long enough for winter to set in, thereby giving us the precious time we needed to prepare. We will never forget.”

Russian Field Marshal Georgy Zhukov wrote in his memoirs: “If the Russian Peoples succeeded in raising their tired bodies in front of the gates of Moscow, to contain and set back the German torrent, they owe it to the Greek People, who delayed the German Divisions all the time needed. The gigantomachy of Crete was the climax of the Greek contribution.”

Hitler’s chief of staff, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel stated during the Nuremberg trials: “The unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia if we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different in the eastern front and in the war in general.”

Greek soldiers leaving the Metaxas Line after the capitulation

Adolf Hitler himself spoke about the valiance of the Greek fighters in 1944 to famous German photographer and cinematographer Leni Riefenstahl, as she related in her memoirs.

Hitler told her, “The entrance of Italy to the War was proven catastrophic for us. Had the Italians not attacked Greece and had they not needed our help, the war would have taken a different course. We would have had time to capture Leningrad and Moscow before the Russian cold weather set in.”

In 1941, in a speech made at the Reichstag, Hitler also paid tribute to the bravery of the Greeks: “It must be said, for the sake of historical truth, that amongst all our opponents, only the Greeks fought with such endless courage and defiance of death.”

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said of the Greeks who fought the Germans: “Until now we would say that the Greeks fight like heroes. From now on, we will say that heroes fight like Greeks.”


Watch the video: Why was the German Army so Effective in World War 2? (May 2022).